When I've stuck with a book that long (many I put down and forget to resume) it's because either the author or the narrator or a character has made a friend of me. Like someone I've worked with for a season or on a project or a neighbor I've known for a year or two, they become a part of my life for a bit. Picking up a book is like catching up with them on the corner and hearing the news.
"Are you still reading that?" my wife used to say to me when she first observed how slow a reader I was, "You are the slowest reader ever."
I protested at first - I never realized that I was slow - but gave over to it after a while. There was no way for me to keep up with my wife in reading speed anyhow - she simply devours books.
"I'm still reading this," I got in the habit of announcing as I walked into the living room where she'd be sitting, just trying to head her off at the pass.
She'd just smile and shake her head as if to say, "That's the spirit, never give up."
But lately, I've begun to think that I'm not really slow; I know I can get through a book quickly if I have to. I think I just like to linger in a book for a while. Like the last person to leave the beach, or to go indoors at the end of a winter day, or to stay at the table.
Tonight I have to say goodbye to The Thin Man and I'm a little sad about it. I never thought when I picked up the book, that Dashiell Hammett would lure me into liking, even admiring, Nick Charles, his weary protagonist. But he kept me coming back, like a good businessman, often enough that I became a steady customer and eventually a loyal patron.
And now I've got to finish the book and put it in the complete pile; and eventually pack it in a box and take it to storage; and (in my dream future unpack) it some day at the beach house I'll be able to afford and remember how much I liked it back in the fall of 2009.
"I'm finished," I'd like to say tonight, but "My friend left for home today," would be more in line with how I feel.
And it sometimes takes me a while to find a new book. Sometimes it takes more than a week or a month. I usually try to go to a new genre and author of a very different style when I can do it. And sometimes I'll go through several false starts before I find another that I like enough to finish.
I'm a little unenthusiastic about the prospect just now. A trip to an independent bookstore may be required to perk me up. Just a little nudge into a room with so many undiscovered stories and characters on a cold or a rainy day is usually enough - you never know who you will meet.